Second Career: From Customer Service Representative to Health Information Technician

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Jennifer Westdyke was a customer service representative for a leading telecommunications company where she tracked performance metrics for the maintenance department and monitored the productivity of the repairs teams. She wanted to train for a new career in a growing field, so she researched the Health Information Technology associates degree program at DeVry University. It didn't take her long to decide to embark on the four-semester, 67-credit program.

Medical records and health information technicians are among the 20 occupations projected to grow fastest until 2012, with an expected growth rate of 20 percent through 2018. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment growth will result from the rise in health-related problems among the aging population and the accompanying increase in medical tests, treatments, and procedures.

Health information technicians assemble patients' health information -- including medical history, symptoms, examination results, diagnostic tests,and treatment methods. Technicians organize and manage health information data by ensuring its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security. In addition, with the increasing use of electronic health records, more technicians will be needed to complete the new responsibilities associated with electronic data management. Average salaries for technicians range from $24,290 to $39,490.

"Changing from a field I knew so well to an unknown one was challenging," Westdyke says. "Even though I went through the degree program, once you're in the field there is still so much to learn. I work with individuals with significant experience in the medical record field."

But Westdyke has successfully absorbed all the new information and she is happy to finally be doing something she enjoys. She also enjoys the flexibility her new career affords her and appreciates working in what she considers a less stressful environment.

Her advice to others thinking about making a career change? "Do it now. Don't be scared of the unknown and keep your eye on the prize. It may take awhile or it may take only a few months -- but you can do it; just stay focused."

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